October 18, 2012
By Sidney Randel BRONZE, Austin, Texas
Sidney Randel BRONZE, Austin, Texas
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

It was the first day it rained in a Texas drought like never seen before. It was grey, but the sun still poked its head out occasionally during the rain. The aroma of sweet dirt was thick in the air and there was a cold breeze. It was the second day of autumn in 2010. James had been dead for less than 24 hours. Taking my first step into the hallway at school, it felt like my foot would just keep going and never hit the ground. But it did. I don’t know if I was happy about that or not. I felt like there wasn’t anything to be happy about, a feeling that never fully dissipated. There isn’t a single face I can recall from that day. Because I don’t think I looked one person in face, knowing they wouldn’t be James. It seemed as though I receive one million pats on the back and about double the amount of hugs. But I don’t think I truly felt a single one. People spoke to me all day long but I don’t think I heard a single word. All I recall from this day is the rain, and James; they were the only really important things. James was absent from my life, and I missed him so much it hurt even though it hadn’t even been 24 hours since I saw him last.

I had to leave school because of all the reminders surrounding me while I walked through those halls. When I stepped outside I felt the breeze on my face, which only made me so much more aware of my tears. I felt them drying to my skin, which created a tight, discomforting feeling. Pulling at the hairs that were glued in the trail of my tears only made me angrier. I crossed the street to the community college for a quick break, and I remember these women talking, “Did you hear about that kid who died? Shoulda known better then to walk on those tracks.” The words infuriated me. Everywhere I went he was following me. I wanted to escape the thought of James because I knew he couldn’t be with me, but it was impossible. All of a sudden I got the urge to go back to my health class, where James and I had sat next to each other. On the way there all I could think was how I would never again purposely drop my pencil just so he would pick it up. Or make my septum ring crooked and ask him to fix it. Never again would I be able to get his attention. I speed walked over to the portable across the street and knocked on the door. I couldn’t imagine walking in there and seeing that empty chair, or worse, someone sitting in his seat. My health teacher came out, a big man in his mid sixties, with a thick drawl and who was of course the football coach. He looked me straight in the eye; I could see his tears welling up. “I’m so sorry” he said. Then he began to really cry and he embraced me. He told me I was too young to go through pain like this. He was genuine, our tears were shared. Something I couldn’t say for anyone else. It stung like a knife to the heart but I was able to relate to someone. His raspy voice that I once found so dull, and so boring, was now the only thing beginning my healing. The only words I could push out were “Can I have some of his work”? He went into the class and very quickly came out with the assignment we were working on the day before. It was just a few questions about nutrition with little geographical doodles on the sides.

I very rarely go back and look at this, but when I’m truly upset, I will and it helps more than anything anyone could ever say. Seeing this packet of papers with child-like handwriting can make me day so much better. I couldn’t tell you why, maybe it’s because it’s the only thing that brings me close to him, it’s the only physical thing left of him. I’m unsure, but I do know it’s one of my most prized possessions, not only because of the vast significance it has with James but because of Coach Brock, and that awkwardly comforting encounter we had. Like a physical wound, an emotional one can’t heal without compassion and attention. I received so much of both from one of the most unlikely men that day, and will be forever grateful for the gift he gave me.

The author's comments:
This piece is about my friend who passed away and how difficult, yet relieving that day was

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